"I Can't"

De-Bug asked commentator Demone Carter to write an analysis piece on the recent killings of Eric Garner and Mike Brown. As a son of a mother who lived through the Jim Crow era, and as a father of an 11-year-old, as well reflecting on own personal experience of being racially profiled by police, he explains why he, "just can't..."

I just can’t do it.

I was asked to write about the non-indictments of police in the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. I wanted to write a concise historically contextualized piece to help sway those somehow still on the fence about whether police brutality is a problem in this country.  I wanted to write something that neatly summarized the outrage and bewilderment I feel right now.

I’m definitely capable of writing such a piece but right now I’m tired, angry, frustrated, and I just can’t do it.

I can’t describe how it feels to tell your 11-year-old son that police aren’t always your friends. That as a matter of survival he should show police officers the same deference a slave had to show an overseer circa 1840.

I can’t articulate how I felt when my mom, a product of the Jim Crow era south, told me with tears of rage welling in her eyes how little has actually changed in America. How she was tired of people pretending not to see what’s clear as day.

I can’t relate the level of disgust I feel when I see a country so enamored with Black music, dance, and fashion turn a blind eye to state sanctioned murder of Black people.

I just can’t do it.

The feelings are too raw. Too personal.

I am a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record and yet I have been pulled over more times than I can remember (often searched but seldom charged). I’ve had a cop point her gun at me. I’ve been handcuffed and made to sit on curb while my car was searched. In 2006 I lost a good friend. He was shot in the back 3 times by a police officer in southern California.

I can’t sum up the shame I feel about casually accepting all of the above as just being something Black men have to deal with.

I can’t do it.

I also can’t sit idly by and say, “that’s the way it is.”

Something has to change.


For more De-Bug media (articles, videos, photo essays) on the movement go to:

Protect Your People: Running De-Bug Coverage on the Movement to End Police Violence, Including the Killings of Mike Brown and Erick Garner

About Demone Carter

Demone Carter is the 2016 Silicon Valley Artist Laureate, Hip Hop Emcee, Community Organizer, and Social Entrepreneur from San Jose, California. Follow him on twitter: @lifeafterhiphop.

This article is part of the category: Protect Your People: Running De-Bug Coverage on the Movement to End Police Violence, Including the Killings of Mike Brown and Erick Garner 
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Thanks for sharing your feeling Demone , im. Of from your mother's era But from what I read and hear from people who are, I agree The U.S. Hasn't changed much.

You can't?

I wish Mike Brown had said "I can't" instead of attacking a police officer, attempting to disarm him and shoving the cop's own gun into his thigh. I wish he said "I can't" before he committed felony robbery, felony assault on a PO, attempting to disarm a PO, felony resisting. I wish he had just stopped, put his hands up, and gotten cuffed peacefully. Hash it out in court.

I wish Eric Garner had thought "fight? I cant." Wish hadn't been overweight, diabetic, with heart disease, resisting arrest. I wish people would understand that if you can say "I can't breathe" then in fact yes you can breathe and pass air. That's basic EMT school. But I wish the NYPD wasn't told to enforce tax revenue collection. That's also BS. Cops aren't revenue men. And enforcing tax collection laws does not constitute what local police are for.

I wish that the black community would stand up and teach their youth. Not to live in fear of cops. But to follow the law. And to be cops and firemen. Want change? Start within. Start with fatherhood. Start with being a good example. Start with public service.

Wow where to begin.....I can't believe that there wasn't trail in the MIke Brown case so officer Wilson's version of events could at least be cross examined.. although clearly you've tried and convicted Mike Brown already....I can't believe a civil servant could watch a man being killed using a banned choke hold and trot out some nonsense about him being overweight (how about just cuff him and not choke him to death). I can't believe people like you who make these uninformed assessments of what the "Black Community teaches their children". We teach our kids survival tactics based on our life experiences like all other parents (talk to some Black parents and turn off Fox News maybe). I'm married man, father, and very active in my community (like a lot of Black males btw) this has not prevented me from being harassed by police because racially biased cops have a hard time telling the difference between responsible adults and criminals when your skin is brown. Lastly the tone deaf, bigoted, and defensive responses from police combined with the glut of police brutality caught on tape only cement the points Black people have been making for decades ....so keep it up...people of good conscience are waking up.

I wish the 2nd person commenting could see they are showing their racism. Thanks for proving our point buddy. How about you just treat the black community like they're human beings?

Wow. I'm sure I can't argue in with the second poster, "madness," in a way that will be fulfilling.

So I'm going to skip all of the obvious issues of race and class and bias and power and oppression and inequality and blaming the victim and rationalizing immorality--I'm just going to talk about breathing.

As the mother of two asthmatics, I can confidently address madness' contention that "...if you can say "I can't breathe" then in fact yes you can breathe and pass air."

While this might be technically true, the fact is that it doesn't mean you have enough air to, well, live. That the asthma attacks that have resulted in my kids being admitted to the hospital often began with "I can't breathe."

What a responsible adult does when someone indicates that they "can't breathe" is to seek medical attention--promptly. This is especially so when the person has an underlying medical condition, say asthma or being "overweight, diabetic, with heart disease," as madness mentions.

I hope we can all agree that when a person says "I can't breathe" the inquiry should not be whether that person has been able to muster enough breath to utter the words, but rather how soon we can get a medical professional to evaluate the situation and provide aid.

So Mr. Garner had enough breath to say "I can't breathe." So what?

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